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Monday, March 30, 2009

The Experience of a Lifetime!

Hola amigos!! My spring break was spent a little differently than most this year. I was blessed with the opportunity to go on a study abroad trip through CFS and also in conjunction with Ambassadors for Children(AFC), a non-profit in Indy that was founded by a Purdue grad! We went to Cartagena, Colombia and spent about half of our time volunteering and delivering donations at four different sites: Fundación de Semillas Esperanzas, Fundación de Jesús, a Children’s Hospital, and Villa Gloria, one of the poorest villages in Cartagena. Read on to learn about the specifics!!

We embarked on our journey early on Sunday morning, March 15th. Our flight left from O’Hare at 6am! We had a connecting flight in Fort Lauderdale. Most people think of Colombia as being really far away, but it’s actually only about a 2 ½ hour flight from Fort Lauderdale! Once we arrived in Colombia we were greeted by some local high school students and the family of our AFC trip leader (JR). JR is a native Colombian and it was apparent throughout our whole trip how passionate he is about his country!! Sunday afternoon was spent at our own discretion, and Sunday evening we had a welcome dinner at a restaurant in the old city of Cartagena. The old city is absolutely gorgeous!! The pictures definitely do not do it justice! After our welcome dinner, I went back to the hotel and crashed…it had been a loooong day of travel and I was exhausted!!

Monday was spent touring the city. There is so much history around Cartagena, and we covered just about all of it! We visited the San Felipe Fort which was built in the 1500s by the Spaniards. It’s huge! We also had a chance to go down in the tunnels of the fort. Other places of interest that we visited were La Popa Monastery, the Old Shoes monument, the Historical Museum, and the Inquisition Museum. Monday night, JR’s family invited us over to their house for a cooking lesson. We made traditional Colombian foods such as empanadas con carne, empanadas huevos, and arepas dulces. It was delicious!

Some of our group at the Fort-notice the beautiful city in the background!

Our group with JR's family after our cooking lesson

Tuesday we went to Fundación de Semillas Esperanza. It’s kind of like an after-school program for the children of the community. They learn about proper hygiene, manners, how to be good citizens, and Bible stories. The children here performed the traditional dance of Colombia, the cumbia, for us and also taught us how to play their instruments. We passed out backpacks, shoes, education kits (with basic school supplies), administered fluouride treatments, and generally just played with the kids! The kids were really eager to learn English. In the picture below you can see Joe, a CFS student majoring in financial planning, helping one of the little girls with her English. Tuesday afternoon we went to a Mud Volcano! It is one of only 3 in the world!! The mud is so dense that it holds you up. In order to move around you have to grab onto someone else and be pulled towards them! It was a crazy experience, but so awesome!!

The Mud Volcano was a once in a lifetime experience!!!!

Wednesday we visited Fundación de Jesús, a preschool in one of the poorest areas of the city. The preschool serves about 100 local 3-6 year olds. These children were the most precious I have ever seen in my life! They also played music for us and danced with us. We again passed out donations and just played with the kids. AFC has a sponsorship program through this preschool in which one can sponsor a child for only $20/month. Myself and one of my sorority sisters/fellow CFS student/Cartagena traveler decided to join together to sponsor one of the children (picture below). We were able to meet our little girl and everything! We will receive her report card and picture updates of her periodically. It was a lot of fun to play with these children. Despite the language barrier the kids here are just like kids everywhere else…they love to laugh and smile and play games!

Suzanne and I with the student we are sponsoring
through AFC

One of the students at the school, absolutely precious!!

Tune in tomorrow, for the second installment of Leslie's Colombian Adventure!

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